Pep Guardiola said he is in no doubt Gabriel Jesus can replace Sergio Aguero after Manchester City’s record scorer was ruled out for several weeks with a thigh injury.
Aguero is set to miss December 7's Manchester derby and faces a race against time to be fit for subsequent games against Arsenal and Leicester after limping off in Saturday's 2-1 win over Chelsea.
But Jesus has pronounced himself ready to step in for the Argentinian and Guardiola voiced his confidence in the Brazilian, who is set to begin a run of games against Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
Jesus scored a hat-trick against the Ukrainian side last season and Guardiola said: “I don’t have doubts, he is going to play well in the next weeks. Sergio will be out a few games, a few weeks. We are going to live without him for a while.”
Aguero has played more minutes in both the Premier and the Champions League and Jesus is eager to take his chance.
He said: “I am not happy because Sergio is injured. I don’t like it when my friends are injured but I am ready to play.”
Jesus has spent much of the past three seasons understudying Aguero and admitted: “It is not easy. I want to improve my football so sometimes I am not happy. When I decide to come to City I know it is going to be hard because we have Sergio who is the top scorer of the club and he scores every game.”
Jesus has the sixth best goal-per-minute ratio in Premier League history and has been Brazil’s first-choice striker in the World Cup and Guardiola praised him for the way he has handled being the second choice at the Etihad Stadium.
“To cope with that is not easy for Gabriel,” Guardiola said. “There is not another striker at his level that can be so humble and accept the situation as Gabriel. But they respect each other.”
Guardiola said that it was easy to persuade Jesus, who signed a five-year contract extension last year, to stay, despite the frustration of life on the bench.
“He knew the situation with Sergio before he extended the contract,” he said. “My advice to him was if you are not sure, you can go to other places and he said: ‘No, I want to stay here.’ We will do everything to keep him here as long as possible.”
City, who will book their place in the last 16 with a point on Tuesday night, face 10 more games in 2019 with a depleted squad. Leroy Sane, Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko are all still sidelined but Guardiola is determined not to use injuries as an excuse.
“From day one, I never said after the game we didn’t have this player and that player,” he explained. “People don’t care if you have injuries. Find a solution. My advice to the players is: ‘Don’t think too much about the treatment table and think which players we have.’”
Guardiola’s assistant Mikel Arteta, who almost landed the Arsenal job last year, has been tipped to succeed the under-pressure Unai Emery.
Guardiola believes the former Arsenal captain will succeed as a head coach, explaining: “I would like him honestly to stay with us as long as possible. He is an incredible human being with a great work ethic. I said after a few months: ‘This guy will be a manager.’ He behaves like a manager.”
Like Guardiola, Arteta was a defensive midfielder as a player and the older man believes it equips him to flourish as a manager. He explained: “Normally the holding midfielder has vision. It is an incredible lesson in your career. You go to school.”